Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Never Bargain with a Toddler

Before we became parents, Mrs. Blackwell and I agreed that, under no circumstances would our child become a picky eater.

The way we saw it, this was one trait we had the ability to control.

I've known parents who feed their kids mac and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because, well, that's all little Johnny or little Sally will eat.

The grand bargain. 
Even while the boy was eating baby food, Mrs. Blackwell and I resolved that if push ever came to shove and the boy decided he wasn't going to eat what we'd prepared him, well, he just wasn't going to eat.

If he dug in, Mrs. Blackwell and I would dig in deeper. We knew there'd be some foods he didn't like. After all, even the most adventurous eaters have some items that they just can't stomach.

I'll eat just about anything — except turnip.

I just can't do it.

It's just the worst food and my mom, God bless her, insists on making it every Thanksgiving and every Christmas dinner.

So, we'd allow the boy to have a food or two that he wouldn't eat. But, barring that, whatever was on the menu, was what he'd be eating.

Which brings us to Sunday night and a standoff that I could never have predicted and one that still has me shaking my head in disbelief.

Mrs. Blackwell has a habit of getting online and finding recipes to try out. She's found great ones like enchiladas, crusted chicken, stir fry and many others.

This past Sunday, she found what I thought could be a new favorite: muffin-sized chicken pot pies.

They're just little pot pies made with Pillsbury biscuits, freshly cut chicken breast, vegetables and cream of chicken soup. A cute presentation of one of the all-time best comfort foods.

Now, it's worth noting that the boy has consumed each of these ingredients on their own. He's had chicken and he's had cream of chicken soup, and he's had vegetables and he's had biscuits.

On Sunday, he wasn't having any of it. Not individually. Not together. Not in a house, with a mouse, in a box, with a fox, here, there or anywhere.

The meal began with the three of us seated at the dinner table, a hot meal in front of each of us.

Without so much as sniffing the meal in front of him, the boy summarily dismissed it. We've seen this before but usually he can be coaxed to try a few bites. This approach frequently results in him eating most of his meal.

Not this time.

He wasn't having any of it. And, when I say "any," I mean any. Not one, single bite.

He whined. He cried. He even slapped and shoved whenever we attempted to get a forkful of food close to his mouth.

At one point he mentioned that, in lieu of one, single, solitary bite of chicken pot pie, he'd prefer to have an Oreo cookie. Well, who wouldn't?

Sensing a moment to do what seemed to be the right thing, I suggested that, if the boy ate five bites of his dinner, he could have an Oreo.

Slowly but surely, my resolve crumbled and five bites of pot pie became one sad, measly bite in exchange for an entire Oreo.

Well, all this did was two things:

  • give the boy hope that, come hell or high water, he was getting an Oreo
  • prove conclusively to me what experts have said for years: never bargain with a toddler and most certainly never bargain with them over food. 

As this process proceeded, the boy's frustration turned to anger.

In at least one respect, the boy and Will Hunting
are quite similar. 
"No! I don't want pahtt pieee."

He'd wail for a bit, then quiet down before pleading "Wann, Oreo!" or "How bout, umm, Oreo?"

"No buddy," I'd reply. "Give me one bite and you can have an Oreo."

"NOOO!" Followed by more crying.

Strangely, he didn't make an effort to leave the table. He was committed to the fight and, by extension, so were we.

All told, this episode went on for an hour. At about the 45-minute mark I began to think of the scene from the film 'Good Will Hunting,' when the title character, in a demonstration of supreme obstinance, sits through an entire court-mandated session with a counselor without saying a word.

And, like Robin Williams from that movie, my response is the same: "Pretty impressive, actually."

About the only bit of credit we can give ourselves here is that we never gave the boy the Oreo. Ultimately, we had to take him to his bedroom for what Mrs. Blackwell has termed a "reset." It's basically a time-out but, he's got free reign of his room.

We leave him alone for a bit and, in short order, he stops crying, starts playing with a toy and returns to his normally congenial self.

So, we did this. He got a bath and, when he was done (about two hours after we initially sat down for dinner) he got some spaghetti.

I'm not sure what lesson he took from all of this, though I'm confident that he didn't come away feeling he "got his way."

And after the tears, wailing and bawling, I am equally confident in saying we didn't get ours.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Remember, the boy had extra Mom conditioning in the powers of persuasion while still in the womb. He is and always will be deductively better at arguing with you. I'm sure you're Dad agrees too.